Pricing of arrangements

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Thirteen Ball, May 9, 2011.

  1. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Why does it?

    I regularly give music away for nowt - mainly because It's not something that's commercially viable, so it's more hassle than it's worth to sort out fees and fill in the tax returns.

    The lad's taken the attitude of "Wilby's costs this much, and he's got something of a reputation, so I'll charge a bit less." He gets scores out there he potentially otherwise wouldn't sell, and bands play music they potentially otherwise wouldn't have bought. Everyone's a winner. Sacrificing monetary gain for a raise in profile is a compromise one has to make when starting out.

    Brownrob If you feel you can cover your costs and the expense of your time and effort at a lower rate, then go for it, and don't let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn't charge.

    (OK, once you've got a reputation to match Mr Wilby's, then maybe consider raising your prices for your own benefit though!)
  2. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    To play Devil's advocate, Andi, if I take this in extremis....if everyone did this, then there's a danger of deskilling, demotivating and basically stopping the provision of professional services.

    To draw a parallel with me, the number of times I've been told that "Bert's son Johnny once did half an hour in with some kind of microphone and a computer thing at school and he thinks that you should...." coupled with "why should we pay someone like you when we can a) do it ourselves or b) use 'Johnny' down the road who got his own tape recorder and everything".....etc.

    In my 33 years of experience of bands at every level there is, sadly, evidence of a common thread (and it's something that Anno Draconis and I have discussed previously and I know he's a proponent of on here)....and that is that (a lot of) brass bands expect something for nothing (or at most, practically nothing). The usual argument is "we're an amateur organisation, why should we be expected to pay £XYZ?"

    I know I'm using a brush wide as the M6 here, but it's to illustrate a point ;)

    What I'm about to say is in no way related to Brownrob's arrangement - I'm on the move and can't see it on the Blackberry, sadly - but is to make a general point....

    If brass bands are in the market for a service be it an arrangement, a composition commission, a get the idea....they're driven by price. OK, I know particularly in the current economic climate everyone is, but IME bands are 'worse' than other groups. They're often driven solely on how little it will cost, and if it's free then so much the better - and it's often to the detriment of the final product....but for some reason, bands accept it...

    The issue comes when the market is diluted with services that aren't all that they should be....but, because of the cost driven banding waggon, they get used to the exclusion of others....such that those that make their living from service provision no longer can....and walk away...

    To put this in the context of arrangements, I've often heard in libraries "well, we need this for someone's wedding...there's an arrangement by <insert famous arranger> that's £X, but we can get this one for £ we'll get that one" (or photocopy it :( ).

    Eventually people will just stop doing it, because they'll have to.
  3. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Just to add....I'm fully aware of 'giving things away' and doing things for cost to raise profile etc...I've been there, done it....but if you're not careful it can come round and bite you hard.
  4. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member


    As usual, you've very neatly encapsulated the counter argument within your own post as well!

    Absolutely I'm all for paying a professional rate for a professional service. And if you go to Philip Wilby or Peter Graham (dare I say Philip Sparke, seeing as he's posted earlier in this thread) you expect to pay a top rate for the arrangement or composition, but you know that the end product will be top-quality. And to my mind, quality is ALWAYS worth the extra. As an arranger/composer myself I can spot the slightly slapdash ones a mile away, and having heard the post-production standard of a few CDs I've played on, I know exactly where your're coming from on the quality of a recording as well!

    What I am saying is that when you're in the infancy of your career (as I'm guessing brownrob is) then it's a bit unfair for someone to be telling him he should be charging more for his work. Bracket yourself in the same price as Porsche, and people will expect 200mph. And it's likely to harm your reputation if you do so and you're only so far up to being an Alfa-Romeo, if you take my meaning.

    The main focus for any provider has to be on producing a quality product. The price then takes care of itself, because it's fair to charge for the effort and attention the provider has put in - and consumers will make their own judgement based on the quality of what they receive. (That's why it burns me up that the Bernaerts sets are the same price as the likes of Alan Fernie and Goff Richards, when the latter two clearly put far more effort into their work.)

    If brownrob is confident he can compete in the marketplace, wants to treat this as a promotional exercise and charge a bit less, then fair play to him. If it turns out to be a belter, then his name becomes associated with a good product and he can charge a bit more next time. But he shouldn't be criticised just because his arrangement is cheaper than certain folk think he should charge.
    Last edited: May 9, 2011
  5. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    The difficult point Andi is when does one make the transition to being able to charge a commensurate rate?

    Another sideways example...

    I'm usually quite happy to do mates rates and viable charity projects, time and budget allowing. Where it starts to go wong is when you get the email or phone call (as I do on a regular basis) that follows this line: "Hi. I'm a friend of a friend of Mr X...I'm looking to record a CD and he's said to talk to you...."....closely followed by...."Oh, is that how much it is....he said you might be able to do me a deal....oh....well, did I mention it's a charity CD?....well, it'd be a CD of all my arrangements..." :s

    If you establish a reputation as being that kind of person that gives everything away, making the transition to (should you wish it) being the 'professional' is made extremely difficult as the expectation is that you'll be 'cheap'....and as soon as you start charging something more like what you're really worth, people balk at it and start looking for the next freebie. It's human nature.

    It's a really fine line, as I'm sure you're aware.
  6. simonium

    simonium Member

    I would suggest that this isn't strictly the case with the huge number of Obrasso arrangements being churned out ordinarily being between £33 and £38 - Bernaerts, however dire, are usually £25 or less for brass band sets. Alan Fernie's and Goff Richards' older arrangements are usually less dear though.

    As I work at a brass specialist music shop we have noticed less people ordering Bernaerts though.
  7. eflatbass

    eflatbass Supporting Member

  8. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

  9. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    I've also heard of people paying fairly hefty sums of money for things that ~aren't~ of the required in the case of my interests, mins taped together with gaffer tape, doing edit pieces with mics in different places across days, with different band configurations and so musical terms....test pieces that are full of errata....

    So it can work both ways, unfortunately.
  10. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Absolutely. Particularly when it's difficult to get across the costs involved before one even factors in one's own time. An arrangement of a work under copyright usually costs me around £50 just for the copyright permission for one copy.

    For some projects I've been happy just to charge that, because generally if a publisher becomes interested then I'll make a kickback that way. There have also been times when it's been in my professional interest to do things 'at cost' however depending on the time needed or complexity of the work, or if it's a one-off project, I'd have to factor that in accordingly.

    Make no mistake, I'm still not at a level where I think I could be charging professional rates for work. A comission from me is still cheaper by comparison to some of our leading lights (see my previous point about relative levels of quality quality) however I'm well aware that my time and effort is a commoddity like any other, and is therefore worth paying for.
  11. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Nicely put :)

    I guess this fits into my previous point, in as much that there's a ~perception~ in a lot of people that this kind of thing shouldn't be chargable....."What do you mean you're a composer? That's not a real job is it? I mean, it's not really worth much is it?" :(

    Sadly, that's an attitude I come into contact with far too frequently.

    The issue I have is that when one undervalues oneself, it feeds the vicious circle....
  12. TonyW

    TonyW Supporting Member

    Hello 13ball,
    Well there`s nothing wrong with your policy as long as a balance is observered. I would hope that Brownrob may be considering applying himself properly in his quest to become a competant arr/comp. He may well be already, in which case he should be setting his selling price higher than £10 - point being is that he wants to sell. If a band don`t like his work after purchasing, it should be mentioned with the option of a refund or a rework. This is what happens if anything else like a car or musical instrument or anything is faulty. I ask is this a regular feature of what bands` do after meeting new arrangers? I would suspect not.
    If this kind of policy is treated as casual and slapdash, then how is the up and coming guy going to put his first steps onto the ladder? There are many incompetant arrangers out there in the pile, (and on commercial CDs also) with some who are members of the bands` who do actually play this stuff. If there is no safeguard; if there aren`t any `ears` to set standards, then standards are going to fall. This can breed a sub-below par movement in the BB world if bands are content with any old free or cheap arr., and when someone comes along who mentions price, the old "But we`re an amateur movement" adage is stated.
    I believe that all compositions and arr. should be encouraged to be sold and bought. This in itself encourages competance by the arr. and it becomes part of the process of improving band music, some of which is sorely needed even higher up the scale.

    Tony Wakefield
    Last edited: May 9, 2011
  13. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member


    As I discussed with Keith above, yes - if price is the SOLE consideration taken on board when purchasing services and or equipment, then a drop in price can lead to a drop in standard. There are few things that one cannot do a little bit cheaper and a little bit worse. And as Keith was saying earlier, care has to be taken to make sure that one's not constantly buttonholed into doing things below market value.

    What I'm saying is, we as bandsmen know how much players hate a rubbish arrangement. So regardless of the price initally paid, if the arrangement's rubbish once it's been bought, bands won't buy the next one will they?

    Likewise, if the arrangement's a cracker then bands will be happier to pay the extra tenner when the next one comes out. Right?

    Thats why bands tend to buy from publishers. Because there's more likelihood the work has been vetted for a) suitability for the ensemble and b) quality of writing, typesetting etc.

    What I'm saying is that there is no AUTOMATIC correlation between cost and quality, and if - as an arranger - one chooses to put something out below market value in order to gain better exposure for one's work, (Or even, as eflatbass has alluded to earlier, give it away for free) then that is all well and good.
  14. TonyW

    TonyW Supporting Member

    `Quick reply` Andi - I think we`re both as near as damn it, to agree to agree . . . . .;)

    Here`s one for you - what`s a dominant 14th?
    Winner with the correct explanation wins a free score!

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